Historic, archived document
Do not assume content reflects current
scientific knowledge, policies, or practices.
IRWINVILLE FARMS PROJECT
U.S. Department of
FARM SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
In the middle of the 19th century, when the Georgia families who
had settled in the middle of the state began to migrate, they followed
the western route. Only a few went into South Georgia, for that area
was then considered a swampy, malaria infested place. It had a good
deal of pine timber, but was seldom thought of as a farming country.
Consequently, south Georgia was slow to develop. Early in the
1800' s it had been cut into large counties and large tracts of the
land were granted to individuals. But at that time, aside from cut-
ting out some of the pine, little was done to develop the country. A
handful of towns were built, but they remained small. One of the
earliest of the towns to be settled was Irwinville, county seat of
At the time of the Civil War, most of the land around Irwinville
was owned by R. V/. Clements, a cotton planter. About 1890 he died,
and the plantation — which included more than 10,000 acres of farm
land, pine woods, and swamp — together with most of the village lots
and buildings, was turned over to his son, J. B. Clements. Irwinville
continued to be a one-man town. J. B. Clements was the first man in
Irwin County to receive a college degree; he also was Worshipful Master
of the local Masonic Lodge, Judge of the County court, and acknowledged
leader of the community.
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In 1908 the county seat was moved to another nearby town, Oscilla,
which was served "by a railroad as well as a main highway. This left
Irwinville and J. B. Clements stranded. Fitzgerald, Oscilla, and the
other towns that were springing up nearby were following the quickening
pace the rest of the country was setting — new means of transportation,
new ways of farming.
Irwinville had lost its court house. It still had its land, hut
J. B. Clements was not much of a farmer. He had spent much of his
time and money in a desperate effort to hang on to the county seat;
he was, and always had been, head over heels in politics. He spent
the rest of hi9 life getting elected to and serving in the General
Assembly of the State of Georgia. The land was either left idle, or
farmed by a few croppers the best way they could. In 1929 Clements
When the estate was settled, an insurance company obtained 3,000
acres of the farm land, and three local business men formed a corpora-
tion to buy up the rest. The town at this time consisted of one empty
court house; one abandoned jail; a few old houses; a small cement
block building formerly occupied by a bank, now bankrupt; an old post
office; a couple of combination gas stations and groceries, two
churches; a two story brick schoolhouse; the ancient Clements Mansion;
a small turpentine mill; about twenty Negro shacks; and an old hotel.
The corporation took over the management of all the farm land, built
about 25 sharecropper shacks, and filled most of them with tenant
families, which raised cotton and tobacco. A couple of village families
put in their time running the gas stations; a few more owned little
farms on the outskirts; a few owned skinny, poor-bred cattle that
grazed on the open range.
The world outside, however, had changed a good deal. Back in 1908,
when Irwinville lost the county seat, South Georgia was fast "becoming
settled, and in the next few years it experienced a rising tide of
prosperity. Then, after the War and the Depression, South Georgia
along with the rest of the nation — particularly the nation's farmers
— started the long slide downwards. Low farm prices, loss of foreign
markets, erosion, drought, floods, collapse of credit, ill-health,
mechanization, the one-crop system, the "boll weevil, the corn borer,
tenancy, and other calamities closed in on America's farmers. In the
Spring of 1935, more than a million and a half farm families made less
than $500 a year — including all food they grew for home use. A
large part of the world had settled back almost to Irwinville' s level.
Not everyone had fallen behind, it is true. Those who were still
able to get credit, and who had good land, machinery and the advantages
of education, continued to make a fair and sometimes excellent living.
It was this group that had taken over the job of supplying the nation's
agricultural needs. By this tine more than 90 per cent of the country's
farm products were being marketed by about 50 per cent of the nation's
The other half of the farmers, however, needed help. The causes
of their distress had "been forning for twenty to fifty years — many
of then were inherent in the ways in which they and their fathers
had always lived — and they were not something that could be remedied
individually or in a day. The bottom half of the nation's farm families
was handicapped by lack of money, tools, land and education.
iMost of these families had always depended upon their landlord
for the plow, mule, se^d and fertilizer they needed to make a living.
At the depth of the depression, their landlords were no longer able
to furnish these essentials. One of them, for instance, had this
typical story to tell:
One day he met a former landlord of his in town. "You've been
working on CWA haven't you?" said the landlord. "Have you saved any
of the money?" The farmer said that no, he guessed he hadn't. "Well,
I had hoped you had," the landlord said, "I'd like to give you a farm,
but I can't furnish you myeelf."
A few of these farmers had owned at least part of the necessary
tools and workstock at one time or another, but the long string of
circumstances — one-crop farming, low farm prices, constantly shift-
ing residence — had wiped them out, financially. They needed help,
and more important still, they needed a change in their way of living.
Share cropping, even with good land, good tools, and credit, had not
brought them very much in the old days. In the depression world, it
would bring them even less.
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These farm families were scattered all over the country. Irwinville
in a general way, lacked what all the distressed areas lacked. It
did have, however, many of the essentials upon which a sound farming
system could be "built.
A report, drawn up before the Government 1 s effort was begun,
stated that there were approximately 2,000 acres of cleared level and
gently rolling land in and about the town. The uncleared area suitable
for cultivation was about 1,000 acres. The remainder was swamp, flat-
woods, sandhills, and land too steep for cultivation. In general, the
cleared land was rated as good and most of the fields were in a good
state of cultivation and of average fertility. The greatest problem
was the fact that about half of the cleared land needed terracing to
check further erosion.
There was a grammar school in town; it was greatly overcrowded.
The nearest high school was four miles away at Mystic.
There were 25 farm houses around the town. Most of these had been
built or extensively repaired when the land passed into new hands after
the Clements bankruptcy. They were frame, four or five room buildings,
of a typical share-cropper cabin pattern, and nearly all of them were
badly in need of repair. The weakness of the share- cropping system,
with its constantly shifting tenants, was demonstrated by the fact that
neither landlord nor tenants had maintained the value of investment in
land and buildings.
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For cotton markets there were Oscilla, nine miles away, popula-
tion 2,500; Tifton, 17 miles, population 5,000; Fitzgerald, 9 miles,
population 5,000. Tifton was a leading truck growing center and was
served by three main railroads. It was also a large tobacco market
and the center of plant-growing farms.
The census showed thrt Irwin County was, from a farming viewpoint,
above the state average in value of farms and acreage of farm land in
In brief the people of Irwinville, Irwin County and other parts
of the nation had some of the means of self-support, but lacked tools,
training, credit; most important of all they lacked a way of getting
them. In 1933, the Federal Government undertook to help. By 1934, a
tiny part of the Government's effort centered itself on Irwinville.
♦Following are some points taken from the 1935 Census :
20 per cent of farm operators in Irwin are Negroes; 30 percent in
Georgia are Negroes.
82 per cent of Irwin County's land is in farms; 67 per cent of
Georgia is in farms.
123 acres is average size of farm in Irwin County.
86 acres is average size of farm in Georgia.
4 times as many te2iants as owners in Irwin.
2.2 tines as many tenants as owners in Georgia.
Average value of land and buildings per farm $2300 in Irwin - a
drop from $3200 in 1930.
Average value of land and buildings per farm $1700 in Georgia -
a drop from $2600 in 1930.
Georgia has 159 counties; Irwin has l/l54 of the state's farms.
State has 250,544 farms; Irwin County has 1,622 farms.
Only nine Georgia counties raise more tobacco;
About one- third of the Georgia counties raise more cotton.
About 6 persons per farm for both Irwin County and the State.
Irwin has 2.4 cows over 2 years old per farm..
Georgia has 2.2 cows over 2 years old per farm.
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All through 1934 the Georgia Rehabilitation Corporation, with the
help of Federal funds, had "been helping the worst hit of the farmers
to get "back on their feet. Its practice was to take a tenant or
sharecropper off the relief rolls and loan him a few hundred dollars —
just enough to make a crop. In this, it v/as simply taking over the work
that the landlords and banks could no longer carry on. It also tried
to give him whatever guidance he needed in farm management.
One of the Rehabilitation Corporation's greatest problems was to
find good land for borrowing families to work. When their local agents
first looked at Irwinville, it was with this single purpose in mind;
here was a good-sized tract of land, that might very well support a
group of the agency's clients.
In November of 1934, the Rehabilitation Corporation selected
W. P. Bryan and sent him to Irwinville to see what could be done. Bryan
was a capable farmer from nearby Tift County. He had been chosen a
Master Farmer and was the "dirt farmer" member of the Georgia Rural
Rehabilitation Corporation board of directors. Under his direction the
Georgia Rehabilitation Corporation bought the farm land and the share-
cropper shacks of J. B. Clements' successors. It took over what mules
and plows and wagons the Tri-Farm Corporation had been using, and
bought most of the village lots and buildings.
Bryan's first job was to get the land under option. Because so
much of it was in one tract this was accomplished fairly rapidly. Then
the new families began to arrive, sent "by local relief agencies or
directed "by the rumor that the Government was renting some farms. Many
of them were "broke; Bryan had to lend some of them money from his own
pocket, so they could eat and keep alive.
These families had all been on reliof , and the brief facts of
their past had already been officially recorded by the case workers:
their ages, where they had lived, and in a very brief way, how they
had lived. The case workers had added a few paragraphs of their own
about the families' traits, characteristics, and habits as observed in
home visits. With these case histories in hand, and after seeing and
talking with the families, Bryan selected as many families as the tract
In June, 1935, the newly created Resettlement Administration took
over the work of the Georgia Rehabilitation Corporation and most of the
similar corporations throughout the country. The major work of the
state corporations had been to extend production credit to needy far-
mers. Resettlement, too, faced the huge problem of supplying credit
and good land to the small farmers. It continued to devote the major
portion of its time and money to that problem. But Resettlement pro-
posed to do more at Irwinville.
The Resettlement Administration, saw in Irwinville, a chance to go
a step farther. Here the physical shell of a community was already in
existence. Since the Government owned all the land, the farmers could
be given a chance to plan ahead for two, three, ten years. At Irwinville
in other words, farmers would have a chance to use all of the tools,
physical, and social that they could devise.
The rehabilitation corporation had started a similar community
development in several other localities, "but they had "been limited by
the short length of time from carrying the experiments very far*
There were several plans for developing Irwinville. One was to
bunch all of the farmhouses inside the village proper. This would cut
the cost of wells and other facilities to a minimum, make it easier
for the children to attend school, and make it easier to establish
community feeling and relationships. It might even be possible to
work out some system whereby the farm land would be worked as one unit,
with vast savings in the cost of fencing and barns and tools. This
plan, however, was discarded.
Instead, the more conventional plan of individual farms, scattered
around the town was used. Every farm a separate unit. The farms
ranged from 50 to 100 acres. Both the size of the family and the type
of farming determined the size of the farm. The families who went in
heavily for truck farming did not need a large farm.
Monthly reports from the project showed its development during
In October, 1935, the County superintendent of schools reported
that, due to the increased number of students, another teacher had
been added, but the school term had been cut from 6 to 5 months.
In November, about 13 families left the project. Four of these
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families were "discontinued". The others left of their own accord.
In December, 1935, the Construction Division of the Resettlement
Administration took over the construction work.
In January, 1936, the families who had left in the fall were
Not many families were added to the total accommodated, because
there were no houses, as yet, to put them in.
When fall of 1936 came there still was no great change in the ap-
pearance of Irwinville. But there was a substantial change in the way
the families were farming.
Supervision had always played a part in the lives of the families,
but now it had moved to the foreground. The Government had hired
skilled technicians to help the Irwinville farmers. These people — the
man a farm manager, and tl.3 woman, a home economist — i\rere local people
of a very practical sort.
They helped the families make out farm plans. In these plans, the
families provided not only for the cover crops and permanent pastures
that would save the strength of their soil, but also for a variety of
cash crops, and production of most of their own food supply. The home
economist worked with the farm wives, teaching them to can fruit and
vegetables for winter use, and plan balanced diets for their family in
all seasons of the year.
This type of planning was new to most of them, but even stranger
was the system of cost accounting the farm manager urged them to set up.
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Both farmer and farm wife were urged to fill out record "books, putting
down item "by item the goods they produced and the money they spent.
In November of 1936 a registered nurse was hired by the Govern-
ment. The nurse Couldn't take the place of a doctor; but she could
treat many minor ailments and could offer complete preventive care,
which checked many of the diseases that weakened the families.
The 8pring of 1937 found 62 families working the project land.
The Government loaned them funds for operating expenses. These Spring
loans were a carry over from the old tenant and sharecropper system,
under which each year, the plantation owner or furnish merchant ad-
vanced the families enough supplies to enable them to plant their crop
and keep going until Fall. But there was a difference. Not only did
the Government charge lower interest rates, but the farm plans the
families followed placed them each year in a better position to finance
their own work. This showed up clearly when the loans were made.
The loans, for instance, in the Spring of 1937, averaged about
$340. The largest part of this — 41 per cent — went for farm operat-
ing items, such as seed and fertilizer. The next largest amount was
22 per cent for livestock; then 18 per cent for machinery; 16 per cent
for subsistence; and 2 per cent for household furnishings.
A glance at these items told a great deal. The diversified farm
program for instance, showed up in the livestock item. The Irwinville
farmers were buying beef cattle to supplement their crop income. The
subsistence item indicated that already the families were able to supply
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more of their own needs. Under the old system these families usually
needed an advance for food and clothing about as large as their allow-
ance for farm operations.
The first week in May, 1937, was set aside as National Health
Week and Irwinville had a full-day celebration that started out with a
baby contest in the morning, followed by a parade and a picnic lunch
at noon. In the afternoon the community baseball team won a victory
over a neighboring town, playing in suits made by the project women.
In the same month, three project children were graduated from the
high school at the nearby town of Mystic.
In June, 1937, the canning program reached a high point.
With the project's two pressure cookers stowed in her car the
home supervisor drove from house to house helping the farm wives fill
their jars. Snap beans, lima beans, black eyed peas, squash, beets and
beet pickles, cucumber pickles and chow chow, berries, jam and jelly
and peaches were canned for use throughout the winter. A small co-op
cannery had been erected near the community center, and it was also
put into operation to supplement the home canning.
During the summer of 1937, social activities began to expand.
A Better Homes and Gardens club met twice a week. There were Wednes-
day night dances in the community center. On Thursday night there was
group singing. With the girls out of school, the home supervisor took
several of them over to the WPA center in Fitzgerald where there were
classes in the making of trays, brooms, mats and other household equipment.
During the summer months the construction program went ahead full
blast. Most of the houses already were completed, so the work was
centered on the erection of poultry houses, storage houses, and paint-
ing, wiring and plunging.
In the past the families couldn't raise many chickens because they
had no place to keep them. They had no place to store their surplus
food, and they never had any paint, wiring or plumbing.
Twenty-five cars of watermelons were shipped. Approximately 50
barns of tobacco cured. 3200 cans of fruit and vegetables were canned
in the canning plant and approximately 1800 quart jars were filled at
In December 1937 the project families made down payments on 30
sets of bedroom furniture and 25 living room sets.
This furniture was designed by the Government and built by private
manufacturers. Of simple, sturdy construction, it met their needs,
added beauty to their homes, and still was within a price range they
At the end of 1937 there were 30 families in the community of the
43 that had made a crop in 1935. An inventory was made of the 30
They had averaged $77 worth of property apiece when they came to
the project. Now they averaged $415 worth of livestock, $89 of farm
machinery, $141 feed and seed, $181 furniture, $139 food. Their aver-
age liabilities were $189. Their average net worth was $778 or a total
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increase in net worth of $701 per family. With one exception, they
had cone from the relief rolls of the surrounding counties, Tift, Worth
Lenier, Ben Hill, Turner, Berrien, Cook, Cohh, Lowndes and Irwin.
These 30 families when they started farm operations in 1935, con-
sisted of 30 married couples, four adult females, 47 girls, and 47 hoys
Since then 11 children had "been "born, six hoys and five girls. Of the
older hoys and girls that moved here with their parents, three hoys and
two girls had married. All three of the hoys were now project farmers
and making their own way. Due to the higher standard of living and
"better medical attention, there had "been no deaths in the families.
The total livestock all the residents had to "begin with was: two
mules, 15 head of cattle, six hogs, 122 chickens. Now they had: 38
mules, 116 head of cattle, 483 hogs, 772 chickens.
The 20 clients that were still in deht to the FSA on January 1,
1933 owned $4,329, divided as follows: 1936 deht, $1,942; 1937 deht,
$2 , 58 6.
The families now operated eight two-horse farms and 22 one-horse
farms. The operating loans required each spring had decreased each
year, except where a client "became a two-horse farmer and had to huy
another mule, and in a few instances where a mule died and had to he
The Irwinville Farms Health Association "began its activities on
January 1, 1938. The annual dues were $30 per family. Out of this
sum, a physician from one of the nearhy towns agreed to provide for
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the project's medical needs. Seventy-six of the families joined imme-
diately. The doctor holds a clinic several afternoons of each week and
furnishes hospitalization, surgical care, x-rays, obstetrical care and
all ordinary drugs. He had certain hours each afternoon when he was
available and at other tirr.es there was a charge of $1 for home calls
or $2 after 7 p.m. There was also an extra charge for confinement
Events of community life and growth followed one another in a
normal way. Early in January one of the community farmers and his
wife died of pneumonia.
Before the end of the month 21 new families moved onto the project
and only two or three additional families were needed to fill the 82
All of the project families planted gardens and the men organized
a mule insurance company. Each client that wished to join paid $1 per
mule into the fund. If his mule died he was to get its value in cash
up to $100. This was an invaluable safeguard against getting caught
without a mule in the middle of a cropping season.
In May, 1938, the second May Day celebration was held.
The local branch of the American Legion presented a flag to the
school and approximately 500 children and parents attended the ceremonies.
During this month, a group of Georgia teachers visited the project school
and commented favorably upon its equipment. There was, they found, not
only a full supply of tables, chairs, mans, globes, books, but also a
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workshop for the hoys and a home economics room for the girls. They
found there what seemed to them a good "basis for a healthy mental
and physical growth.
The May, 1938, report of the nurse's acitivities is a fair
sample of every other month, and it is a good example of the load she
was carrying — 152 home visits, "bedside care, obstetrical assistance,
prenatal, post natal, communicable disease control, advice and health
education, follow-up on children showing remedial defects; also eight
morbidity clinics, three typhoid clinics; assisted in 20 physician
cases, school activities including eight surgical dressings, classes
on home nursing for 7th grade girls; monthly reports to State Health
Department; contact with State health department for spot map on
hookworm survey; meeting with directors on medical plan; three x-rays;
pea removed from lung of 11 month old child, which was taken to Atlanta
hospital for further treatments; demonstration and lecture in club
meetings on home nursing; 165 doses of typhoid vaccine given; three
toxoid (diptheria) injection8; two noses packed to stop hemorrhage.
The canning plant opened May 10th, operating three days a week.
This plant served only to aid the community families in accumulating a
store of canned goods. It was not used for commercial production since
it was only a little, one-room affair. In May, nore than 1300 cans of
beans were put up. At first a toll of one cent per can on ten per cent
of the canned products was charged to defray expenses; but later two
boys and three girls were certified by NYA, as well as one man from WPA,
to help with the canning and the charges were no longer necessary.
During May dry weather enabled most of the families who "bought
pressure cookers to keep up canning at home — 1500 quarts total. At
community club meetings that month the home economist gave demonstra-
tions with the pressure cooker; the nurse demonstrated serving various
diets to sick people; each eorr.-.ittee chairman gave reports and sugges-
tions pertaining to the work of her committee. The new warehouse was
completed and the contract let for the construction of a retail store
The end of the crop planting season showed the following crops
in the ground; 91 acres of tobacco; 600 acres of cotton; 450 acres of
peanuts; 180 acres of melons for market; 40 acres of snap beans for
canning; and 2200 acres of corn, peanuts, beans and other crops to feed
The University of Georgia announced in June, 1938, that it would
use Irwinville school as a center for teacher training and would send a
group of cadet teachers there to help with the school program. The
state department of education furnished a starting library of 900 books.
During the same month the co-operative cotton gin was completed.
Typical of its past was the fact that Irwinville had never had a cotton
gin. This new one was to bo run by the community cooperative. It was
the last word in gins. Its new metal sides gave the town proper — that
is the crossroads — the first real sign of modernity it had had in thirty
years. The gin was the first of the new community structures to be built.
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(The warehouses and temporary stores were remodeled structures.)
At the end of the fiscal year 1937-38 an official accounting of
project costs was made. Totals were: $622,747 for houses, outbuild-
ings, sanitation and water supply, land improvement, farmstead land
cost; $119,501 for community facilities including "buildings, land im-
provement, utilities, and cost of land devoted to community use;
$48,119 for surplus land, management operations, taxes and insurance.
The individual house costs averaged $2,543 for the 39 four- room
houses; $2,835 for the 14 five-room houses; $2,497 for the 30 houses
that Resettlement and Farm Security rebuilt. This included all the
costs that could be attributed to the houses, not only the labor and
materials but the overhead costs of the construction division both off
and on the project.
Description of the houses: no basement; foundations of concrete
footings with brick piers; termite shields on top of piers and about
all plumbing lines entering the house; chimney of brick construction
with terra cotta flue lining; framing of wood construction with excep-
tion of concrete pre-cast porch steps; exterior walls are building
paper with wood siding; metal roofs or shingles; interior walls are
vertical tongue-and-groove lumber; double floors; ceilings are tongue-
and-groove lumber with ventilation of attic space provided by built-in
louver. Houses are wired for electricity and all necessary fixtures
installed. Thirty-four of the houses have sink and hot water tank in
kitchen; tub, lavatory and toilet in bathroom and septic tank for disposal
of waste* Most of the rest have all this with the exception of the toile
The construction division had terraced 3,393 acres and drained
2,152i The county did all the necessary road work.
The report showed that 83 farmstead units had been built or re-
paired. These units averaged 76 acres or a total of 6,367, nearly 60
per cent of the total area of the community. Community facilities took
up 67 acres; roads and highways 197 acres; 643 acres were reserved for
future development. Streams and waste land accounted for 3,507 acres.
This made a total of 10,782 acres.
The report also stated: "Under the program of the Georgia Emer-
gency Relief Administration, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration,
and the Georgia Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, seven houses, 15 barns
and miscellaneous dwelling repairs were started. ... The Resettlement Ad-
ministration completed the buildings begun by these prior agencies,
built 19 additional new houses, made permanent repairs on 22 existing
houses, built necessary outbuildings and drilled wells for a total of 48
units.... The Farm Security Administration constructed an additional 34
units and repaired a house on one existing unit bringing the total de-
veloped units to 83...
"A typical farm unit consists of house, barn, smoke house, and
poultr;/ house with deep well, electric Trump and well house. Thirteen
units have cotton houses, 34 have tobacco barns, 49 have privies and
34 have septic tanks. All units have barnyard, garden, ooultry yard and
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In the construction of the new houses, approximately 48 per cent of
the cost went for material, 41 per cent for labor, 10 nor cent for
general construction expense and less than one per cent for equipment.
Construction was not entirely complete; the store, medical center,
and the combination gym and auditorium were not yet finished, but they
were being built under contract. (Farm Security's construction program
all over the country was nearing an end and the construction division
rapidly being liauidated; further construction was nearly all by con-
During August, the cooperative gin served not only the project
families but a large number of neighboring farmers. After cotton har-
vest, several group planning meetings were held. At these meetings
the families made out their farm and home management plans for the
coming year. By assembling in groups of ten or fifteen and working
them out together they saved time and the families gained a better
understanding of the similarity of their problems, a stronger feeling
In October, the Health Building was completed and new equipment
installed. This brick building hae a waiting room, a doctor's office,
a treatment room where bones can be set and emergency operations per-
formed, a laboratory, a room where some day a dentist may have his of-
fice. It also has offices for the community manager. The nurse is on
duty every day and the doctor has clinics twice a week and can always
be reached through the nurse in an emergency.
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Two hundred and five pupils were enrolled in the school for the
fall session. There were several meetings of the PTA.
At the end of 1938 there was another accounting of the progress
of the families. There were now 28 families who have been in the com-
munity since the start. They owned an average of $232 worth of live-
stock; $119 of cattle; $126 of hogs; $22 of poultry; $115 of farm
equipment; $147 of feed and seed; $263 of household furniture; $231
of stored food. This gave them a total of $1,258 in assets. Their
liabilities average $270, Their not worth $983. This was an average
increase of $909.
The community manager in his year ond report noted that the fami-
lies had canned an average of 319 quarts per family. There was an
average of 5.6 persons per family. Hookworm survey showed 45 percent
prevalence. About 57 percent of the families kept complete records;
43 percent of the families kept partial records.
The original farm plan had been for each one-horse farmer to have
five acres of cotton, four acres of noanuts, one acre of tobacco, one
to two acres of truck crops, or 30 acres of cultivated land for money
crops and approximately 18 acres in food and feed crops. A two-horse
farmer would have roughly twice as much of everything.
This plan had been followed closely, except that AAA cut down
tobacco to .75 of an acre. For 1939 the plan was changed slightly, by
having every farmer raise ten hogs and one beef steer for market.
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The cash crop sales were as follows:
Tobacco — 92 acres
Cotton - 650 acres
Peanuts - 550 acres
Melons — 185 acres
Truck Crop Sales
Of the 28 families who have been on the farms since 1935, the aver-
age net worth of the two-horse farmers is $1,326, while the average net
worth of the one-horse farmers is $695. This wide difference between
the one-horse and the two-horse farms was due partly to the natural
difference in productivity of the farms and partly to the ability of
the farmers. During the years the most capable of the farmers had been
shifted to two-horse units.
In March, 1939, W. T. Anderson, editor of the Macon Telegraph
started a feature story on Irwinville with these words: "Believe it
or not, I have found something in the New Deal which I can approve."
A vocational agricultural program which was started in January,
1939, had home projects for all its boys in the Spring of that year.
This was the only grammar school in the state that had a program for
boys clear down to the fifth grade.
The home projects are selected by the boy, the teacher, and the
parents. Most of the boys had projects of from one to three acres of
corn, runner peanuts, and velvet beans (a feed program that gets the
most from the soil with a minimum of damage to its strength). They
were also buying pigs for breeding, and some of them were fattening
Boys have access to a workshop which carries a full line of
wood and metal working tools. This shop is also open to their fathers.
At several meetings, the farmers studied control of internal para-
sites in hogs, control of "blue mould in tobacco beds, establishment
of a one variety cotton community.
Several swine sanitation projects were gotten underway. These
projects were developed to show the benefits of raising hogs that
are protected in their feeding and housing from parasites. It was
hoped that the success of a few farmers with these projects would
encourage others to follow their lead.
This brings Irwinville up to March, 1939. The following is a
general description of the community at that time:
DESCRIPTION 07 TOWN
Irwinville is off the main road and part of it looks really
"back country." (There's a swamp in the area that is full of grey,
boney-looking tree trunks and black nd Spanish moss.) But
it's rich-looking country as a whole.
The plantation house on the edge of town is two stories high
with a double veranda, a wing on one side, and a dining room and
kitchen that ramble off to the rear. The rooms are large and have
ten-foot ceilings and fireplaces. The hallway and back porches are
wide and break the house into sections, to aid ventilation. It
furnishes a striking contrast to the newer farm hones. The planta-
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> tion house was owned and lived in for many years "by a wealthy man, yet
it has single flooring, and no fireplace or any other means of heat on
the second floor. (In the owner's day it had no inside toilet or run-
The cooperative store building is made of "brick with plaster walls
and a composition floor; one story, no basement. The building has one
long room for the store and two smaller offices that serve as the co-
operative office and the gas station office. It has two toilets.
Water tank and an electric pumping station serve the community
The old three-story brick jail is caving in, but a transient family
lives in the bottom story. Woman said she hadn't lived there long and
commented that when she first came to the town "everything was poor —
since then there's been a boom." She looked ragged but her seven-year-
old girl was neat and lovely.
The old court house is now empty. It served as headquarters for
the construction division during development of the project, and was also
the community center; the health clinics and dances were held there. How
it holds only the meetings of the Woodmen of the World (75 members).
There is a private gas station, an old fra.me Masonic Building, a
Baptist Church, three school buildings, a private grocery store, a new
office building and clinic, an old office (the deserted bank), cotton
gin, water tank and pump house, warehouse, seed house, new store building.
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Just outside the farms, a"bout a mile from the community center is
Crystal Lake. It is a "beautiful place, with a lake that is at least a
half-mile long, fed "by springs, and "bordered "by a white sand "beach and
a wood covered with Spanish moss.
Newest of the community's clubs is the Irwinville Home Improvement
Club. It meets in five sections every week and all together once a
month. It's a combination of the health, education, home supervisor,
and home economist activities* This combining of activities and break-
ing up into sections it is thought, will bring the greatest degree of
efficiency and cooperation. The meetings are well attended.
One of the largest children's groups is the Sunday School class
which is non-denominational, and is taught by the project manager's wife.
It meets every Sunday afternoon in the school auditorium.
The men have regular meetings of their branch of the Woodmen of the
There are three buildings for the school. One is the old remodeled
brick two-story school house. It has classrooms for eight grades, a
library with 800 books in it. The second is the completely equipped
farm workshop. The third is the new gymnasium — its basketball court
can be converted into an auditorium seating at least 500 people with a
large stage at one end. It is built of brick with white pillars in
front. It also contains one of the best equipped home economics class-
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rooms in the country (four stoves — electric, wood, and two oil —
an electric ice "box, two sinks with running water, four kitchen tables,
four "big wood card tables, wood panelled walls, high ceilings, full
length mirrors, a sewing machine, a day bed.) Here girls from the
fifth to eighth grade are taught home economics for the first time in
the history of the state. It was formerly a high school subject — and
few farm girls completed high school.
The co-op runs the gin, the store, the seed cleaner, and a mule
insurance association. It also buys a major part of the farmers' ferti-
liser and seed and sells their cotton and tobacco. Practically all
residents belong to it.
The total amount spent in building Irwinville as given in the cost
report of June 30, 1938 was $866,882. Of this amount approximately
$244,000 was used for community buildings, the surplus land, and the
non-capital items such as management and taxes. The remainder, $622,747,
waa the amount spent for buying land, erecting the houses and getting
the farms ready to be worked.
It is estimated that a large part of this latter cost, that of de-
veloping the farms, will be paid back to the Government in rentals or
in purchase payments on the farms, over a period of forty years. The
I average rental at the present time is $140 a year. The remainder of the
farm cost as well as the community development expenses will probably
have to be written off.
This write-off will for the most part be charged to the experimen-
tal side of tho community. Irwinville is a new type of venture and with
its fellow communities served as a proving ground for methods and means
of farm community development. In the erection of these communities,
methods of house and barn construction were evolved that now make it
possible to build four and five room frame houses for as low as $1100
each; a personnel wan trained in the hitherto untouched field of com-
munity management; efficient procedures were developed for handling the
work all the way from the Washington office down through the regional
office to the community site; in other words the groundwork was laid so
that in many of the communities that followed Irwinville, expenses were
at a minimum and the Government expects to be paid back the whole or
nearly the whole amount spent for development.
Aside from the sums listed above, the only other amounts involved
in the development of Irwinville were a $63,000 loan to the cooperative
and the spring loans to the individual farmers for operating expenses.
These amounts are expected to be repaid in full.
It is still rather early to attempt to evaluate the whole worth of
Irwinville. There are, however, several factors that may be taken as a
partial measure of the progress made. The average net worth of tho
families who have been in their homesteads since 1935, for instance.
They have averaged an increase in net worth of approximately $1,000.
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The higher standard of living of the families is another; likewise, their
improvement in health. The attitude of the children is a third; inde-
pendent and straightforward in their actions and appearance, the chil-
dren give direct evidence of "being able to make their own way and take
their place in the Government of "both their community and their nation.
The following pages recite brief histories of several typical fami-
lies as reported "by a visitor to the project.
B. C. Traylor : In the early twenties Traylor farmed in Alabama.
He sold his farm tools and went to Florida in the boom days of 1924-25-26;
there he got a job as a policeman. In 1927-28-29 he half-cropped in
Tift County, Georgia. In 1930-31, he worked for a farmer near Alapaha
in Berrien County, Georgia. In 1932, he half-cropped in Tift County.
In 1933-34, he received a few dollars from relief and the CWA. In the
early part of 1935, Mr. ana Mrs. Traylor and their five children moved
to Irwinville from Tift County. They had a cow, twelve chickens, and
some small tools. They also had some furniture. All was valued at $100.
Mr. Traylor' s financial statement on January 1, 1938, was as follows:
Farm machinery $97.50 — work stock $200 — cattle $350 ~ hogs $255 —
poultry $54 — feed and seed $375 — furniture $100 — food $246.95 —
total assets $1,678.45. His only liability was a $50 doctor bill. His
increase in net worth was $1,528.45.
In March, 1939, one daughter was in College at Tifton, Georgia,
one son was married and employed as a carpenter at Oscilla. At this
time Traylor had 20 head of hogs, a team of mules, a large flock of
chickens, some turkeys, about 14 head of cattle.
In 1937, his loan was $235. In 1938 it was $535 (mule died). In
1939, it was $345 (fertilizer accounts for $200 of this loan).
He has "been a two-horse farmer all of the time at Irwinville. His
house is well landscaped (yard full of "bushes and a good hedge). His
Irish potatoes and peas and onions ire up in his garden. When his new
barn was built he saved the old one by moving it back in the field.
His boys are carrying on a hog sanitation project.
Chester Foster ; The first family to move to the community and one
of the most cooperative. In 1925-27 he rented. In 1928 the hail hit
his 10 acres of tobacco and the insurance just cleared the expenses. In
1929, he raised tobacco, peanuts, cotton, and corn. In 1930, he moved
to Calhoun County, Florida, had 30 acres of tobacco, put in $1000 and
lost $1500. In 1932, moved to Cobb County, Georgia, raised potatoes on
shares and barely made expenses (that year Mrs. Foster had an appendiciti
operation). In 1933, was foreman of a road project under CWA. In 1934,
was renting 20 acres and a house for $6 a month. When I visited the
Foster home, it was in immaculate condition. The house-wife had covered
a big box with chintz for a table, and made a chair out of a soap box.
One of Foster's former landlords said that he had liked Foster as a
farmer and would have kept him if he hadn't had a chance to sell the farm
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When they cane to Irwinville in 1935, he was 24, his wife, Becky,
26, Herman 7, Marcell 4, Doug l-§ — all in good health. They had fur-
niture valued at $100. That was all they owned.
In 1937, they changed from one-horse to two-horse farming. In Jan-
uary, 1938, they owned the following: Work stock $150 — farm machinery
$82.50 — cattle $60 — hogs $75 — poultry $20 — feed and seed $215 —
furniture $200 — food $106.68 — total assets were $909.36. They had
no liabilities. Their net worth increase since they came to Irwinville
Harvey Evans ? Evans was horn in 1900 in Turner County. Obtained a
7th grade education. Married in 1918. Sharecropped father's farm until
1925. In 1925-26, sharecropped with S. B. Bryan and Company. In 1927-28-29
rented. In 1930, rented another farm. In 1931 went to Florida and
worked in cannery for $24 per week. In 1932-33 sharecropped with father.
In 1934 went on relief, got food hut lacked clothes, owed doctor bill.
In January, 1934 his wife died. At that time he had five children —
Velna 15, Winford 13, Marguerite 11, Oveidue 9, Betty 3. That year the
grandmother looked after the family. In March, 1935, Evans remarried.
In January, 1936, when he came to Irwinville, Evans had $140 worth
of worldly goods, $100 of which v/as household goods.
He received a loan of $600 which he has repaid, as well as all of
his subsequent loans.
Evans now has (March, 1939) assets of $1,584, a good pair of mules,
$371 in household goods, $288 food, $87 hogs. His only debt is furniture,
$24. His net increase in worth is $1,400. He has "been a two-horse
farmer all the tine.
Jeff Singletary; From 1930 to January, 1933, he sharecropped in Thomas
County — 1933 to June, 1934, sharecropped in Colquitt County — at
that time the crop looked so poor and the market so had he cashed in
his chips and gave up. The rest of 1934 and 1935 he had no regular em-
ployment — just income from garden, odd johs and relief. He got free
fuel "by cutting wood. Acquired no dehts. Singletary was 26 when he
moved to the community in January, 1936. At that time he had $100 of
household goods and that was all. In January, 1939, he had assets of
$1,365 including $300 work stock, $140 cattle (eight head, of which three
are milk cows), $70 hogs, $254 food. He owed $460 — had a net worth in-
crease of $803. He changed from a one-horse farm to a two-horse in 1937.